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Two Grad Students Take Three Minutes to Win Campus Grad Slam

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Graduate students Benjamin Stanonik and Erica Stemmler made short work of Cal State Fullerton’s first Grad Slam contest, in which competitors had three minutes and use of a single slide to present their thesis research. They walked away with the competition’s top prizes.

“It was an exhilarating experience! I was nervous, but in the sense that I was anxious to show what I could do at my best,” said first-place winner Stanonik, who shared his research into the Civil War and West Virginia.

“Civil War history has always been endlessly fascinating to me, and I have studied West Virginia’s role in it since taking my graduate writing seminar in 2017,” said Stanonik. “It was a story of intrigue, intensity, tragedy and loss that I was aching to tell.

The hardest part of the Grad Slam, he noted, “involves not only conveying those feelings to your audience, but also trying to get them to feel what you feel, even when they haven’t studied the subject to the extent you have.”

Stemmler, who is working on her master’s degree in special education, agreed. “It was a really fun, furious experience. I was really excited to take part and to be able to hear about all the competitors’ work.

“I wrote my speech four times, practiced and then revised to share my research in story form,” said Stemmler, explaining that her research focused on using clay as an art form and therapy for students with autism spectrum disorder. “Autistic children have difficulty expressing themselves and they also experience high anxiety. But clay therapy seems to reduce anxiety and serves as another bridge so they can share their feelings.”

In addition to Stanonik and Stemmler, the other competitors were:

Maziyar Afifi, human communication studies, “Regaining Teacher Credibility in the Classroom”
Joshua Cawley, history, “Meet the Kitaoka Family: The Only Japanese Americans Displaced From Brea, California, During WWII”
Ved Contractor, computer engineering, “Autonomous Navigation of an Assistive Device in an Unmapped Indoor Environment”
Eztli Herrera-Gardea, psychology-clinical, “Catholicism and Patriarchal Beliefs as Predictors”
Hilary Keil, psychology-clinical, “How Pornography Calibrates Our Perception of Women’s Sexuality: A Bayesian Developmental Test”
Mercedes Luna, education-educational leadership, “Concussion and Academics”
Phillip Ly, computer science, “Machine Learning Mobile Application for Skin Cancer Detection”
Erika Orozco, psychology, “Cognition Across Genetic and Environmentally Informative Kinships”
Christopher Ortega, history, “Transgender and Intersex in Ancient Greece and Rome”
Blanca Quinteros, gerontology, “An Aging World: Global Perspectives on Aging”
Alfonso Ramirez Jr., chemistry, “Polypyrimidine Tract-Binding Protein 1 Regulates Alternative Splicing of a Pyruvate Kinase Gene”
Amanda Worthington, human communication studies, “Affectionate Communication and Emotional Closeness Between Sibling Types”

Cal State Fullerton will be represented among the competitors during the March 6 Western Association of Graduate Schools’ third annual Grad Slam regional competition in Tucson, Arizona.